(This post first appeared in the July 2009 edition of my church's newsletter)
In early 1977 Steve Miller’s “Fly Like an Eagle,” reached #2 on the Billboard Top 100 chart. Nineteen years later it was covered by Seal, and reached #13 on the pop charts. It is a song familiar to generations of listeners.
Less notable was the performance of “Fly Like an Eagle” by the Haverford Middle School Chorus in 1987, when a group of 12 and 13 year-olds – who were in diapers when the song was first released – sang the piece while trying to keep from laughing at the absurdly obvious refrain, “Time keeps on slippin’, slippin’, slippin’ into the future” (like, where else would it go, we wondered?). Perhaps we adolescent members of the so-called “Generation X” weren’t tuned into the existential ponderings of our parents’ generation (a generational gap that continues beyond adolescence to have significant impact, I believe, on how our respective generations look at institutions such as government or the church, for example … but that’s the stuff for another article).
Time is slippin’ into the future, a reality that is catching up with me these days. Time management is one of the central challenges I face in my new life as a parish pastor. To be honest, time management was never my strong suit, but now as I juggle a variety of interests, responsibilities and ministries, and a schedule that includes nights and weekends, I struggle to prioritize or find a balance. I am experimenting with a new day off (Mondays) and am seeking other ways to use the gift of time wisely as I live into my vocations as pastor, spouse, and parent. This juggling act is something that many of you confront, as well.
At the synod’s Confirmation Camp, held during the last week of June at Mar-Lu-Ridge Lutheran Camp, 70 kids, 12 faculty members (mostly pastors), and 20 camp counselors recalled the life and ministry of Jesus. As we recounted a selection of Jesus’ miracles and parables, it felt like time was slippin’ quite quickly into the future! We began on Sunday evening with Jesus’ baptism, and by Tuesday Jesus was betrayed by Judas at the Last Supper. Yet on Thursday Jesus was raised from the dead, calling on his followers – in this case, the youth attending Confirmation Camp – to go into the world proclaiming the Good News of God and serving all in his name. That afternoon we were engaged in service projects at a community center, a nursing home, a local congregation, and at Mar-Lu-Ridge camp itself.
I reflected on this quick passage – or slippin’, to use Steve Miller’s lingo – of time and wondered what was next. That is, at Confirmation Camp time slipped quickly into the Good News of Jesus’ resurrection, and we responded with acts of love and service. But then camp ended, we packed up, and went home. Did God’s time stop slippin’ when we all got back onto Route 15? I don’t think so.
We live in an in-between time, a time that is slippin’ into God’s promised future, but which is also shaped by God’s mighty acts as recounted in Scripture. From the Exodus and the Exile, to the Sermon on the Mount and Jesus’ prayer on the Mount of Olives, our present and our future is grounded in a blessed past. This past tells us a story of God’s unending mercy and grace, of a God who turns again and again to his people in love. This past sends us on a path of promise looking forward to a new kingdom, a new creation, a new reality that indeed has been breaking in since Jesus’ baptism. God’s promised future is slippin’ into the present.
Time keeps on slippin’. In my daily life, I’m going to try to keep time from slippin’ too far, too fast, or too hectically into the future. But in God’s time, I’m grateful that time keeps on slippin’, for each minute that passes is a gift from God, an opportunity to witness his love, a chance to be grounded in sacred promises, ancient and future.